The Daily Gamecock

Starke, South Carolina men's golf hope to continue historic season at SEC Championship

Round One of the 2014 NCAA Golf West Regional, Eugene Country Club, Eugene, OR  
(Eric Evans Photography)
Round One of the 2014 NCAA Golf West Regional, Eugene Country Club, Eugene, OR (Eric Evans Photography)

The South Carolina men’s golf team has quietly put together what is shaping up to be one of the best seasons in school history. Currently ranked sixth in the nation, the Gamecocks will travel to St. Simon’s Island in Georgia for the 76th annual SEC Championship, which begins on Friday, April 17.

The tournament field will feature all 14 SEC teams, including nine teams currently ranked in Golfstat’s top 50. At No. 6, South Carolina is the second highest-ranking team in the field behind No. 5 Vanderbilt.

Junior Will Starke leads the Gamecocks in just about every statistical category. His stroke average of 69.70 is nearly two strokes per round lower than the current school record of 71.35. 

In fact, four total Gamecocks are currently among the top six on the single season scoring average list.

Starke’s scoring average ranks him seventh nationally. In nine starts this season, the junior from Chapin, South Carolina has tallied eight top 15 finishes and a win at the Palmetto Intercollegiate. 

Starke's six top-five finishes are tied for the most in a single season in school history. Starke has recorded a total 17 rounds with scores in the sixties.

This historic season has garnered Starke national attention. 

Starke currently ranks eighth in the Team USA Palmer Cup standings. When the final standings are released on April 17, the top six will earn automatic spots on the 10-man team. Three committee picks and a coaches’ pick will decide the final four golfers.

In order for the Gamecocks to perform well as a team this upcoming weekend, Starke will most likely need to keep up his stellar play.

The course that the Gamecocks compete on will be a familiar one for South Carolina. The SEC Championship has been held at Sea Island Golf Club every year since 2001.

The links-style course is shorter than most courses. At just 6,883 yards, the Par-70 course plays hardest in dry and windy conditions. However, with rain in the forecast this week, the course could be vulnerable to low scores.

“Sea Island is always dependent upon the wind,” South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald said. “There are not a lot of trees. It’s pretty open. I think two years ago it became pretty close to unplayable when we had some 30-mile per hour gusts. Last year we didn’t have any wind, hardly. It was soft and warm, so it played relatively easy.”

The Gamecocks have never won an SEC championship, but this year’s team has the makeup to make a run at the title.

South Carolina has finished in the top-five in a school-record eight straight tournaments and in 17 of its last 19 events overall. The Gamecocks’ team scoring average of 281.46 this season is six strokes lower than the current school record of 287.46.

Still, the Gamecocks will face some tough competition this weekend and will have to play well to have a shot at winning.

“The field is always great,” McDonald said. “It’s the SEC Championship. That’s all you have to say. It’s one of those tournaments that there is so much depth in our conference that anyone can win it.”

South Carolina will tee off at 7:30 a.m. of Friday with Vanderbilt and LSU. The three-round tournament will conclude Sunday.


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